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The BBC's Andrew Harding reports
"Russian and Chechen troops are fighting and dying for every inch of territory"
 real 28k

Claire Doole in Geneva
Security checks on all of those fleeing the fighting has intensified in recent days
 real 28k

Friday, 21 January, 2000, 17:01 GMT
Chechen refugees 'body searched'

refugees Refugee numbers are up again

Russian forces have stepped up security checks on people trying to flee the fighting still raging in Chechnya, according to the UN refugee agency.

It says refugees trying to cross into neighbouring Ingushetia are now commonly subjected to full body searches.

There are unconfirmed reports that Chechen men of military age have been detained at the border and taken to Russian military headquarters at Mozdok.

Battle for the Caucasus
Last week the Russians banned all men from the age of 10 to 60 from crossing the border. The ban was later lifted after international pressure.

More than 2,000 Chechens, mostly women and children, arrived in neighbouring Ingushetia on Thursday, the highest daily figure in weeks.

The UN agency estimates up to 180,000 Chechens remain in the neighbouring republic.

Click here for a map of Grozny

BBC correspondent Claire Doole says that with most escape routes blocked and refugees coming under heavy artillery fire, few are willing to try to escape.

Describing Grozny as "an active battle field", the UN says only a handful of people have left the capital in the past few weeks.

It estimates 20,000 Chechens are still trapped there, hiding in cellars without electricity or adequate food and water.

Both sides are suffering losses in battles around two locations close to the centre.

Grozny Smoke rises above the bombed out capital

Russian military officials say fighting is fierce for control of a strategic bridge which leads to the centre and for a square not far from the city centre which was the scene of heavy clashes during the last war.

Commanders say the Chechens are moving along tunnels to try to cut off and destroy Russian positions and to break through Russian lines encircling Grozny.

They say rebels made one such attempt last night but were driven back.

The Russians say 80 rebels have been killed since Thursday against the loss of eight federal troops.

Heavy losses

Reports that the Russians are sustaining far heavier losses are impossible to verify as commanders are not letting foreign journalists anywhere near the zone of combat.

But observers say the sheer weight of Russian numbers and military hardware makes it all but inevitable that they will eventually take Grozny.

They have just appointed a military commandant to oversee the establishment of a provisional civilian administration in the expectation that it will be days, rather than weeks, before he starts work.

Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev said on Friday that he knew nothing about the fate of the general who went missing in action on Tuesday.

General Malofeyev (right): Whereabouts unknown

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See also:
21 Jan 00 |  Europe
High-flying career of missing general
21 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Chechnya to open Kabul embassy
20 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Russian press views Grozny endgame
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Muslims condemn Grozny offensive
21 Jan 00 |  Europe
Frenzied fighting in Grozny
20 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russian general missing in Chechnya
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Chechen rebels hold out
18 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Russians learn from past mistakes
19 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: West quiet over Chechnya

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